Building a Reclaimed Wood Door from Scratch (Mission Style)

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This is a mission style 2 panel door made from a really old piece of reclaimed pine and a piece of glass salvaged from a door I found in the trash. The piece of pine belonged to my great-grandfather who’s daughter (my grandmother) still lives in the house that he built back in the 50s. Joints between the pieces of the door are all tongue and groove. Polyurethane glue is used at the main wood joints and caulking is used at the panels and glass to keep them in place but also allow them to move slightly with the temperature. The bug canals in the pine were filled with epoxy and sanded smooth, then the whole door was finished with polyurethane.


It’s kind of a funky aesthetic with the bug holes, but they loved the look of it because they had to, and also because I think they actually liked it 🙂


Build Details

Notable Materials:
> Reclaimed pine board
> Reclaimed glass panel
> Poplar panels
> Polyurethane glue
> Caulking
> Melamine scrap pieces
> Polyurethane finish

Notable Tools:
> Circular saw
> Table saw
> Thickness planer
> Router
> Wood ruler
> Caulking gun
> Rubber mallet
> Pipe clamps
> Syringe
> Random orbital sander


It all starts with this little sketch that I drew up of the door to help dimension the pieces from the existing opening. The house was originally built by my great-grandfather, who is a short man so he made the house and the doors to fit him! Their front door started falling apart but there was nothing even close to this custom size available to the store so I headed to the work shop!

This piece right here is what sparked the idea in my mind to build the door myself for their house. I found this down in the basement, they had saved it from when they had to take down their garage that was starting to deteriorate about a decade ago.

It’s not the prettiest piece of lumber — it’s a wide plank piece of pine with some visible bug holes — but this thing has such history and such a story behind it that I just had to make it work!

The last piece to the puzzle was this other junk door that I found out for the trash down the road from me. The door had seen better days and couldn’t be salvaged, but that 1/2″ thick piece of double pane glass was perfect for me, win-win.

So it all starts by cutting the long plank down to a more manageable size. I rough cut it a couple of inches longer than the final pieces using my circular saw.

Then with the pieces a little more easy to work with, I cut them down to width on the table saw. It looks like all of the bug damage is on the outside edges of the boards so I start by cutting them in half and then flipping them around and cutting them to their finished with to get rid of as much of the buggy stuff as possible.

These were some impressively big planks at 13″ wide and 2″ thick, so I plane them down to 1-3/8″ thick, which is the finished thickness of the door that I’m replacing.

Now that everything is down to the correct width and thickness, I cut out the 1/2″ dado in each of the appropriate edges of the pieces. This groove will be what I use to hold both the glass in place and also the 2 wood panels. At this point, I make sure to position any of the buggy wood on the inside edges of the pieces so the most structure is left on the outside edges of the door. Once this process is complete, I can cut all of the pieces down to final length.

All of the “rail” pieces that run horizontally get a tenon cut on each end of them which will be accepted into the groove I just cut in the edge of the stiles. This is done with the miter gauge in my table saw by cutting the tenon to the correct length and then removing the rest of the material and then flipping it over and doing the same.

With the stiles and rails cut down to size, the final pieces I need for the assembly are the panels. I had these wide poplar panels left over as scrap from a previous project so I cut them down to the correct size so I can have solid pieces of wood for both of the panels.

Time for assembly! I use a polyurethane glue to hold the stiles and rails together since this is on the outside of the house (inside a sun porch) and will be subjected to temperature swings daily. It also expands when it cures, so my hope is that it would expand into any of the bug holes at the joints to make them slightly stronger.

Caulking is used in all of the grooves at the wood panels to hold them in place, but it’s also flexible enough to allow for the panels to shrink and grow through the changes in humidity.

The last big part of the puzzle is the glass panel. I use caulking to hold this in place too, luckily it fits because I don’t think I’ll find another one in the trash any time soon! Some comments will bring up concern about being able to replace the glass if it breaks. My answer to that is 1. It won’t, and 2. I built the door from scratch, so I think I can figure out how to replace the glass 🙂

Everything is clamped together overnight while the glue and caulking cures. It was kind of tricky getting all of the pipe clamps in place given the shape and limited space in the subterranean shop, but it worked.

The next day I can remove the clamps and finish the door. While planing the boards down I could get a better eye on bug holes and see how much were actually there. I figured as long as I position them right the pattern could be pretty cool so I went ahead with it. With the glue dry I use the nozzle on my air compressor to clear out the bug holes and really get to see how significant they are now! (note, keep a respirator on at all times for operations like this, you don’t want to be breathing in that buggy sawdust)

Even though I liked the look, the holes were a bit too frequent texture wise and I also worried that it might take away from some of the structure holding the panels into place. I decided to fill all of the holes in with epoxy so I make frames out of some pieces of melamine to keep the epoxy from getting on any of the panels or the glass.

A syringe helps to push the epoxy into all of the holes.

With the holes sufficiently filled, I dump the rest of the epoxy out and spread it over the surface of the door to help harden the surface, but mostly to make sure I have a consistent color in the finished surface.

Once that cures, I can sand down the entire surface to smooth it down and then flip the door over and do the same thing on the other side.

Before applying the final coats of finish, I protect the glass by taping some newspaper to it… hey look at that sale!!

I decided to use some spray polyurethane to finish the door because that is what I had laying around and also because this door won’t be exposed to the elements so that will be sufficient as a finish.

Getting the door in place was just a matter of bringing it to the grandparent’s house and setting it up on saw horses while I remove the old door. I build the new door square because all door openings are square (ha!), so I take the old door and put it on top of the new one and use it as a template and trace it out. I can then feather down the edges to the line with a block plane and apply finish to the edges of the door which dries while I cut out the mortises for the hinges and the knob/dead bolt.